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HAMMOND | Before facing recent charges of murder and marijuana dealing, embattled East Chicago Councilman Robert Battle's name emerged during testimony in a sweeping federal street gang case.

In January 2014, federal witness Eddie Torres Jr. testified against his former friend, Imperial Gangster member Richard Reyes, who ultimately was convicted of racketeering, murder and drug charges, Hammond federal court records show.

During his testimony, Torres, who pleaded guilty to narcotics and racketeering conspiracies in the same gang case, spoke of a falling out he had with Reyes in July 2006. The source of Torres' friction with Reyes was a cocaine deal Torres tried to set up for Battle, transcripts of Torres' testimony state.

Battle faced no charges in the gang case.

Torres, 42, of East Chicago, testified in U.S. District Court that Battle, also a friend of Reyes, approached Torres in summer 2006 hoping to purchase three kilos of cocaine.

Ultimately, Torres said he connected Battle with drug suppliers in Chicago, whom the councilman then drove to visit.

But in the process of trying to buy the drugs, Battle, who was carrying about $72,000, was robbed, "Stuck up by gunpoint," Torres testified.

Torres testified he later learned about the robbery when Reyes paid him a visit, accusing Torres of setting up the robbery and trying to shakedown Torres for $20,000. Reyes is a former East Chicago municipal employee who worked as the city's Marina dockmaster.

Torres, who is serving an 11-year prison term for his role in the Imperial Gangsters indictment, told the court he had nothing to do with the robbery and just arranged the cocaine transaction.

Councilman Battle, 42, who represents East Chicago's 3rd District, currently faces a charge of murder in Lake Superior Court. Police and prosecutors accuse Battle of fatally shooting Reimundo Camarillo Jr., 31, of East Chicago, in the back on Sept. 23.

Battle also faces a federal charge of marijuana distribution. Federal court records allege Battle was found with 73.22 grams of marijuana and $100,700 in cash during a Sept. 23 traffic stop near Interstate 94 in Chesterton.

Battle is scheduled for an initial hearing Friday on the murder charge in Lake County.

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Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.